Living Well: Tips to prevent falls in the home
January 2, 2018
We usually don't think of our homes as hazardous areas, but people fall in their homes more than anywhere else. According to the National Institute of Health, six out of 10 falls happen in the home. Thankfully, there are simple ways to reduce your risk of falling while at home.
"As we age, bodily systems that drive balance start to wear down over time. Developing strategies to avoid falls in the home is important to compensate for these changes," said Ericka Lucas, PT, DPT, OCS, a physical therapist with Memorial Regional Health.
Getting rid of hazards and adding safety items is a great way to start. Following are recommendations from physical therapists at MRH.
• Keep pathways and steps clear of clutter: Keep your floors clear of clutter, and make sure you have enough room between pieces of furniture to allow for easy movement. If you have the habit of stacking items on the stairs, find a new way to organize. Common clutter items include shoes, bags, electrical cords, pet bowls and pets, themselves.
"When there is little space between objects, you have to bring your feet really close together. This decreases the base of your support, challenging your balance," said Ryan Shawcroft, PT, DPT, a physical therapist with Memorial Regional Health.
Lucas added that using furniture or walls to help you balance as you walk from room to room is a big risk for falls. If you are guilty of "furniture walking" or "wall walking," it is time to get out your cane and use it at home.
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• Get rid of throw rugs and loose carpet: While throw rugs can add color to your space, they can also get caught up under your feet. If they don't have a sturdy, non-slip backing, they can slide and cause you to fall. If you want rugs, buy large, low-pile rugs, and use a no-slip pad underneath.
• Light up your space: Vision is a key to balance and avoiding stumbles. If you can see the danger before you get to it, you can prepare for it. Put lamps in reach, use nightlights and add extra lighting to stairways.
"Having good lighting in main living areas and high-traffic areas will help you manage challenges in your path," Lucas said.
• Be extra careful in the bathroom: According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all injuries in people older than age 85 involve using the toilet. The CDC states that bathing, showering and getting out of the tub or shower are where many accidents happen.
"Installing grab bars in the shower and near the toilet can provide stability when transferring your weight," Lucas said.
• Take your time in winter months: Build in extra time when going out during the winter, as rushing can set you up for a slip on the ice or a fall over the snow. If you don't have railings on your outside steps, consider adding them. Keep your walks shoveled, and use salt where appropriate. Wear boots and shoes with good traction.
Memorial Regional Health is proud to offer a full team of master and doctorate level physical and occupational therapists at Rehabilitation Services, 473 Yampa Ave. Therapists help enhance balance through exercise plans built just for you. If you are having balance issues, see your doctor, and ask for a referral for rehabilitation.